Tom Brady was forced to play his final season in New England without one of his all-time favorite Patriots targets.

A month and a half after Brady and Gronkowski helped the Patriots win their sixth Super Bowl in franchise history, the legendary tight end decided to step away from football. Gronk was only 29 years old at the time, and he chose to say goodbye to an NFL icon who helped him reach unprecedented heights.

“It was a little tough,” Gronkowski told FOX Sports. “I told him, ‘I’m retiring from football.’ I was definitely teary-eyed giving him a call because I know just how deep down that we have a connection on the field and off the field. It was hard to say goodbye to someone — to the greatest player to ever play the game. And I’m leaving the game of football before he is. And he’s been in the game before me and he’s been in the game after me. … Because we just know how deep of a friendship and relationship we have from the game of football.”

Of course, Brady and Gronkowski weren’t separated for long. Shortly after leaving New England for Tampa Bay, TB12 convinced Gronk to come out of retirement and join him on the Bucs. And the two picked up right where they left off, winning their fourth Super Bowl together in their first season in Central Florida.

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Brady, like Gronkowski, needed two retirements to officially walk away from football, and now that the 46-year-old is done playing for good, he’ll be honored by the Patriots on Sunday. A slew of former New England players are expected to be at Gillette Stadium for the festivities, so maybe the Foxboro Faithful will be treated to a Gronk appearance.

Featured image via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images